No apologies from Czechs

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Miroslav Soukup is not making any apologies for his defensive approach in the quarter-final against Spain.

His Czech Republic side is in the semifinals of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup while the Spaniards are flying home.

"In any sport sometimes the better team doesn't win," Soukup said yesterday through an interpreter. "I agree the Spanish team was the better team on the field. But we just wanted to advance. The way we went to advance was the right way and we did advance."

Spanish coach Gines Melendez complained bitterly following their loss in penalty kicks Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium that the Czechs were not interested in playing soccer, but that they only wanted to defend and that it was a sad day for the game in general.

SPAIN CAUTIOUS

In reality Spain didn't contribute much to the contest in the first half and ventured forward very cautiously in the second half.

It wasn't until they fell a goal down in extra time that they pushed forward and created a number of quality opportunities.

"If Spain is as strong as they think they are, they should have been able to score more than one goal in 120 minutes of play," Soukup said. "And not just score 10 minutes before the end of the game when they were down 1-0."

Soukup's right.

How often do the Brazilians complain teams play too defensively against them?

Argentina, Chile, Mexico have also faced wave after wave of defenders in this tournament but have still been able to score.

"Just because we played defensive against Spain doesn't mean we're a just a defensive team," Soukup said. "We scored two goals against Panama, we scored two goals against North Korea, we scored two goals against Japan. That tells you that we don't play every game defensively and we are able to score goals, too.

"In the game with Panama in Montreal we had to win, so our game was very offensive because we had to win that game to advance. We actually have more offensive-minded players on our team than defensive-minded players. Our selection of the team was based on scoring goals and we took players who can score goals."

Heading into Wednesday's semifinal against Austria, the Czechs have scored seven goals. Only five of the 24-teams in the tournament have scored more. And only two of those teams are still around.

But their defensive approach in their first group game against Argentina, their second-round game against Japan and Saturday's quarter-final has brought on some criticism.

"In the first game we played the world champions Argentina," Soukup said.

"The second game we played the Asian champions North Korea. We played Japan and they just won their group and were the second best team in Asia. And then we had to play Spain, the European champions.

"We have played some very good teams in this tournament. I could question that if we played an open game against Japan, would we still be here? Maybe? I would be naive and a dream coach if I played an offensive system against teams like this."

Back in the Czech Republic it doesn't matter how the team got here. Nor does it matter to the team. This is the furthest the Czech Under-20 team has ever gone in this tournament.

"I think our coaching staff was very correct in the selection of players and strategy we used against Spain," Soukup said.

"But you have to remember, the most important thing when you select a strategy is that the players have to be able to play that strategy.

"I still think our team has yet to play to its full capacity and we're still waiting for our team to play as well as we are able to play."

SLIGHT FAVOURITES

Against Austria the Czechs will be a slight favourite. The two teams met last summer at the European Under-19 championships with the Czechs winning 3-1.

Austria also has a reputation for playing defensively, although they looked impressive in a 2-1 win over the U.S. in their quarter-final.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Soukup said. "When Lady Luck lets us get that far, we would like to go as far as we can."

Does that mean they'll be more aggressive offensively in the semifinal?

"I don't know," Soukup said. "We will see."


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